The Louis Frost Notes 1685 to 1962
A cross section of the field shows the Pictou Coal Field to be highly mineralized, especially in the middle horizon, or the Stellarton Series. In this series there is 189 feet of coal in 1379 ft. of strata, or 13.7% of the measures are coal.
This abundance of coal is not without its drawbacks. The seams give off large volumes of gas and are extremely liable to spontaneous combustion. Furthermore, owing to the number and thickness of the seams and the scarcity of material for packing the wastes, the seams could only be worked by the caving method and in a descending order, so that the winning of the coal in this field was attended with unusual difficulties.
The record of the number of major fires and explosions (see attached sheet) is an indication of the difficulties of mining coal in this field, and in at least two of the collieries, the Allen Shaft and the MacGregor Colliery, fires caused their premature closure before all the coal was recovered, and the balance that remained could not be recovered economically after the collieries had been sealed.
In order to effectively cope with the dangers from spontaneous combustion, it was necessary to work the seams by a panel system, and the fire stoppings controlling the panels were both numerous and costly to build.
These stoppings were at one time built by digging keys into the roof, ribs and pavement until solid ground was reached. This resulted in stoppings of very large size, in one exceptional case a stopping was 70 feet high and 26 feet wide. Within past years it became the practice to trim the roof, ribs and pavement, build the stopping to a width of five feet with specially prepared squared blocks 6 ins. by 6 ins. thick laid in cement and, after the stopping was built, solidify the ground around the stopping by a cementation process. This method, while reducing the cost of building stoppings, also resulted in a much sounder stopping.
The pioneers in the working of this field, naturally took the most easily worked coal near the crop, leaving the deeper lying coals at the bottom of the basin for their successors, who had to contend with much more difficult working conditions.
Mr. George S. Rice, Chief Mining Engineer of the United States Bureau of Mines, in a report made on this district to the Department of Public Works and Mines of the Government of Nova Scotia, stated:
"The changing dip and the numerous faults taken together with the great thickness of the individual coal beds centrally in the basin, the giving off of fire-damp, and the liability of the coal to fire spontaneously in the workings, make the most difficult mining conditions I have observed on this continent."
To overcome some of the difficulties, Mr. Rice proposed that as the coal was extracted, the waste should be packed hydraulically with material brought in for this purpose.
With this view the Company officials were in accord, but the cost of this process was beyond the economic returns available to render this system workable.
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Last Modified: 98-03-21
Authored by: Louis Frost
The information contained on this site is not provided for the purpose of factual
representation. Instead, it is provided in an historical context. Every effort has
been made to ensure that this information represents the actual content of the
original document authored by Louis Frost for the Dominion Coal Company
on or around 1962. Nevertheless, no warranties are provided in any respect.
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